Black Door – The Volcanics (Citadel)
It’s hard – no, impossible – to believe The Volcanics aren’t huge names in underground rock households right around the world.
Perth might be the Most Isolated Capital City in The World (something its bands used to brag about incessantly - but let's face it, it's a great tagline) but the relevance of that factoid is fading fast in this digitally-connected age. So it can’t just be down to location.
Sonically-speaking, “Black Door” has guitars up the wazoo, brutal hooks, captivating songs, swagger and attitude. So it’s as unfashionable as fuck to the ears of cultural taste-makers, who’d rather assail our ears with Chris Brown or Tay-Tay (whichever one makes them the most money through streaming). Yeah. That’d be it.
So let’s get the obvious shit out of the way. The reference points. Radio Birdman for articulated guitars and minor chord foreboding. Check. AC/DC for more beefy riffs per hectare than a gaggle of fretboard fanatics at a guitar convention. Check. Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. Because they were great. Check. Stooges. MC5. Check. The Scientists. Because they came from Perth. Check. So, all the usual suspects.
Ah, the reviewer’s curse. Deciding which boxes to check. It’s infinitely easier and much more relevant, dear Barfly, to tell you how the music FEELS. So here you go: “Black Door” feels lean and mean, with no wasted notes. It feels punchy and very down-to-earth. It feels like walking down the street of a town lined with bars on your day off after you’ve unexpectedly discovered you have a pocketful of $50 notes.
Over successive albums, The Volcanics have broadened and matured their sound. “Black Door” rings stylistic changes from song to song but never feels forced or incoherent. The last album “Oh Crash” was a confident and cocky lsson in rock and roll urgency. This one’s a step further.
“Talk” explodes with early ‘80s Ramone-ic fury and a sharp hook. The barreling “Ladder of Lies”, with its careering rhythm and jagged guitars, is damned near irresistible. Tumbling riffage and a spoken intro propel “2000 Years Ago” forward before you run headlong into the 10-tonne twin-guitar assault of the title tune.
The licks underneath “In My Town” have a vague country whiff but the rhythm guitars are laid on thicker than wet cement. Which is not to imply the song’s turgid. Quite the opposite. There are spaces in its formwork and the band masterfully trowels over all the right parts. You can randomly dip into any of these 11 songs and find somethng to excite. There are no clunkers.
Johnny Phatouros is one of the best rock and roll singers in the country. Tommy Hopkins and veteran Greg Hitchcock are a world-class combo. Levi Caddy and Alex Megaw are one of those rhythm sections you don’t notice until you really listen – and that says it all. The Volcanics are world class. They're taking it to Europe again any tock of the clock. They should be playing festivals.
Recorded at Dead Beat Studios in their home town and produced by the band and engineer Jozef Grech, "Black Door" was mastered by the master himself, Jim Diamond. It sounds urgent, transparent and large.
Just buy the fucking thing right here.